When Cyberpunk 2077's first trailer dropped in what seems like ages now past, it was clear that CD Projekt Red was taking the game's dark yet neon-lit source material very seriously. When it was announced that pen-and-paper RPG creator Mike Pondsmith was being brought on board, it become clear there was a serious commitment to keeping the game authentic.
Given the roleplaying game's unapologetic references to drug use, it's a commitment that may see the game fail Australia's stringent classification regulations. Here's a quote from Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook:
Question: What's a Cyberpunk game without drugs?
Answer: A lot healthier.
This is how Section 9 of the rulebook opens, and while it is only a short, four-page section, the fact that drugs get a dedicated chapter (complete with rules for nine different substances, from SynthCoke to Black Lace, and notes on how to create your own in-game) says a lot about the setting. And initial reports from E3 show that CD Projekt Red is not shying away from that part of the game's genre:
To clarify, you have an inhaler that restores health and seems to give you some buffs. At a certain point a guy that upgraded your tech gives you one and says "take two puffs". It's plausible that more context will mean it's something else, but I think the implication is there.— David Milner (@DaveMilbo) June 13, 2018
Drugs in Night City? What a surprise! But it could get the game in trouble. Here's the relevant passage from the recent classification decision regarding We Happy Few, which was RCed late last month:
The Games Guidelines state for all classification levels from G up to, and including, R 18+ that: Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. ‘Incentives’ or ‘rewards’ may include, but are not limited to: the awarding of additional points; achievement unlocks; new skills or increases in attributes such as strength; making tasks easier to accomplish; accumulating rare forms of game equipment; plot animations and pictures as rewards following an event/action.
Which makes me more than a little bit worried. If drug use gives you buffs in-game, then that's a clear incentive for using them, and that means Cyberpunk 2077 is skating very close - or in fact right over - the line.
Interesting fact: while it appears that drugs are ingested using an inhaler in 2077, in the pen-and-paper version an "air hypodermic" is used, which has the nickname, the 'Bones McCoy'.
I bet that's not in the game.
UPDATE: And now one of our own correspondents has seen the game's extended, hour-long demo, and agrees:
Also this game is totally not gonna past the classification board: substance abuse, extreme nudity, violence and I think gambling themes.— Julian Rizzo-Smith @ E3 (@Retawes) June 13, 2018